Ford Targets Best-in-Class “Customer Experiences”

Ford Motor Co. says it has doubled its investment in customer service programs this year and is rolling out a variety of new initiatives to help improve retention rates.

The company aims to become best-in-class in “customer experiences” from its current self-described middle-of-the-pack status. To make the jump, Ford is benchmarking the approach it uses with F-150 pickup truck owners and is studying non-automotive leaders such as Apple, Delta, Google and Marriott.

A new loyalty rewards program, called FordPass Rewards, was launched last month. Customers will earn points for dealership service visits that can be applied toward future service costs or the purchase of a new vehicle. Owners who enroll in the free program receive 42,000 points, which covers the cost of three oil and air filter changes.

Ford also has launched a mobile vehicle service program with specially equipped vans (pictured) that can be used to conduct oil changes, install brake pads and make some recall repairs. The carmaker operates 100 such vans in the U.K. and is launching pilot programs with select U.S. dealerships.

Several new showroom and sales concepts also are in the works. This includes Ford Smart Labs with open floorplans that can be used in shopping malls and other high-traffic retail areas. Ford is opening five such facilities this year in Europe and Canada.

Existing dealerships are getting makeovers that feature the new “Ford Signature” look. The layout features computer kiosks that allow customers to view pricing and other vehicle information with a salesperson, rather than sitting across from each other at traditional desks. Video feeds from the service department also are available. About 300 dealerships worldwide are expected to be outfitted with the new design by year-end.

The carmaker also has opened a 500-person call center in Houston. Call center operators will remain on the phone with owners throughout the call to ensure their needs are met, rather than transferring callers to other departments.

To simplify the lease renewal process, owners can contact “personal assistants” to discuss options. And a "Drive New. Now" pilot program enables current lease customers to renew their lease with a similar vehicle that's available at their dealership.